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August 17, 2018
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Italy asks Czech Republic to receive asylum-seekers, Czech PM refuses

16.7.2018 10:13
Several hundred migrants on a boat near Italy in the early morning hours of 10 June 2018. (PHOTO: Karpov/SOS Mediterranean)
Several hundred migrants on a boat near Italy in the early morning hours of 10 June 2018. (PHOTO: Karpov/SOS Mediterranean)

Responding to a question from the Czech News Agency (ČTK) about the current Italian request for aid with refugees arriving on Italian territory, Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš (ANO) said the Czech Republic will not be accepting any migrants and that he is insisting the reception of migrants be governed by the principle of voluntary action by the EU Member States. Italian PM Giuseppe Conte has asked the EU Member States for aid with redistributing 450 such people who recently ended up lost at sea. 

The Czech PM says Europe must send the signal that illegal immigration is unacceptable and that receiving more people will just make the problem worse. "Our country will not be accepting any migrants," he said in a text message sent to the wire service.

"Accepting those people is no solution, on the contrary, it will just increase the problem we have in Europe," the Czech PM wrote. "At the Council of the EU we have advocated for the principle of voluntary reception and we will hold to that."

Approximately 450 people on board the rescued fishing boat were transferred to a vessel operated by the EU's Frontex agency and the Italian customs guard. Conte then turned to the EU and asked for aid with addressing the situation. 

The Czech PM told ČTK that a copy of the letter addressed by Conte to the President of the Council of the EU, Donald Tusk, and to the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, was also received by all representatives of the Member States. France and Malta responded to Conte's request and promised to accept 50 people each. 

Babiš said he disagrees with such a procedure. "That approach is the road to hell," he said.

"It just motivates the smugglers and increases their incomes," the Czech PM argued. In his view, the EU must send a clear signal that the time for illegal immigration is over and that the EU will immediately return illegal arrivals.

"We must aid these people in the countries they come from, beyond Europe's borders, so they never even set out on such a journey," he said. The Czech Republic has long been inclined to address the migration issue differently than by redistributing asylum-seekers among the EU Member States.

Along with other Central European countries, the Czech Republic is advocating for thorough protection of Europe's external borders. It also advocates for providing aid to the countries from which migrants depart for Europe. 

In Italy the March elections were won by a center-right coalition called "Centro-destra", in which the main forces are the party "Forza Italia" of former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and the anti-immigration, eurosceptic "Lega Nord", which is frequently spoken of by Czech MP Tomio Okamura as his "Freedom and Direct Democracy" (SPD) party's Italian ally. "Centro-destra" won 37 % of the vote.

The strongest individual party result in the election, with 32.2 % of the vote, went to the anti-establishment, populist Five-Star Movement. Center-left parties were chosen by approximately 23 % of voters.

No political bloc won a parliamentary majority in Italy. In May the leader of the Five-Star Movement, Luigi Di Maio, announced that his party had agreed to form a Government with the ultra-right Lega Nord.

ČTK, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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